Volume: 01, Issue: 07
Spirit's intended trajectory toward Mars.
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The Delta Launch Vehicle for Opportunity is unveiled.
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Other Articles in This Issue:
Helios Prototype Solar Aircraft Lost in Flight Mishap
NASA Helps Libraries Bring Space Research Down to Earth
Unique Birthday Celebration for Space Station Resident

Opportunity Waits While Spirit Hurtles Forward

While the first Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit, continues on its long voyage to Mars, the second rover, Opportunity, awaits a rescheduled launch that will occur no earlier than Saturday, July 5 due to problems with the cork insulation on the Delta II launch vehicle's first stage.

NASAís attempt to launch the rover on Saturday, June 28 was foiled by upper level wind conditions and a fishing boat that strayed into the launch area. Originally rescheduled for Sunday, June 29, launch was again postponed when engineers discovered that sections of a two foot wide, 1/4 inch thick band of cork insulation on the launch vehicle debonded from the surface of the vehicle. Replacement of the sections in question required additional time, resulting in a revised target launch date.

Opportunity must be launched before July 15, when the window of the planetary launch period ends. It is scheduled to land on Mars Jan. 25, 2004. The Kennedy Space Center Web site will provide live countdown coverage of the launch from the Virtual Launch Control Center located at http://www.ksc.nasa.gov/elvnew/merb/vlcc.htm. Live online coverage will begin at 9 p.m. EDT and will feature video clips and real-time updates as the countdown progresses.

While Opportunity has seen its share of problems, Spirit, launched June 10, is successfully hurtling toward Mars at a speed of 32.22 kilometers per second (72,100 miles per hour) relative to the Sun. As of June 20 at 6 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, Spirit had traveled 27,390,000 kilometers (17,020,000 miles) and was at a distance of 2,660,000 kilometers (1,653,000 miles) from Earth.

Spirit performed its first trajectory correction maneuver June 20. Following commands from the Mars Exploration Rover flight team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., the spacecraft first performed a calibration and check of its eight thrusters, then fired the thrusters to fine-tune its flight path toward Mars.

At the end of the trajectory correction, Spirit performed an attitude turn that adjusted its orientation in space to maintain the optimal combination of facing its solar array toward the Sun and pointing its low-gain antenna toward Earth. The spacecraft's next trajectory correction maneuver is scheduled for Aug. 1 and its next attitude turn for July 22.

All systems on the spacecraft are in good health. Spirit will arrive at Mars on Jan. 4, 2004, Universal Time (evening of Jan. 3, 2004, Eastern and Pacific times). The rover will examine its landing area in Mars' Gusev Crater for geological evidence about the history of water on Mars.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the Mars Exploration Rover project for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.

For more information about the Mars Exploration Rover Project, visit http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mer.

Additional information is available from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., at http://athena.cornell.edu.

Kennedy Space Centerís coverage of the Opportunity launch is available at http://www.ksc.nasa.gov/elvnew/merb.

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